Just finished The Color Of Law by Richard Rothstein,
Each time I read something about Black History it strikes me how little I know. It seems like no matter how many books I read and in how many conversations I’ve participated in, it is still not enough.
I had no idea that so many discriminatory clauses in the housing regulations were actually spelled out like discriminatory. Like many other people, even those who like me are well aware of housing inequalities, I was still sure that the unjust economic positioning of Blacks resulted in unjust housing. I had no idea that many city zoning codes, state regulations, and even FHA guidelines had explicit segregation statements. It’s mind-blowing, and I can’t get over it. I didn’t know that Black veterans were effectively denied the benefits provided by GI Bill because you could not get mortgages in general.
It’s from that book that I learned about the contract sales of real estate (and I naively thought that the way people buy houses around me, that’s you get a mortgage and you own a home right away, is what everybody does. And the list of what I didn’t know before goes on and on.
I also find every important several comments which were made in the conclusion of the book. I often resent the opinions of some relatively new immigrants who are making statements to the effect of “why I should feel guilty for slavery, why I should sacrifice something to repay the past wrongdoings if my ancestors were not even here when all these things happen? The author cites an answer to a similar question: you were not there in 1776, but you still enjoy a hot dog n July 4. This means that when you come to this country in search of a better life, although you yourself work hard to achieve prosperity, you still benefit from the wealth, from the governmental institutions, from the quality of life in this country, from everything which was built by previous generations. And when you accept all the benefits of living in the US, you accept all the responsibilities for how that wealth was built.
I hear that sentiment (“My ancestors were not here”) frequently, and I know I have a good quote to answer.